As a beauty writer, stashes of beauty products are the norm around my home. My soft spot is skincare, and though my favorite pastime is cheerfully sorting through products and concocting my own regimen, it's become a bit—shall we say—much. I've been yearning for a more simplistic approach to my skincare routine, one that doesn't require me to use one product for another to be effective or that comes from a line that leaves my brain exploding with too many options.
Enter J-Beauty, which fuses together age-old Japanese beauty practices with modern-day innovation. With the market's (and my) new focus on a less is more mentality, J-Beauty, which showcases cutting-edge technology and refined skincare solutions, caught my eye. If you're looking to simplify your routine, take note of these six Japanese beauty brands that have made minimalism part of their DNA.
According to Seiso JBeauty, when there is clutter, valuable ingredients lose their value. But their simplistic approach to skincare wasn't just bred out of the founder's love of skincare or acneic, rosacea-prone skin. It was the fact that she simply had less time for a multi-step routine. "Being a parent to young children is likely the driving force behind my focus on minimalism, in all aspects of life, but definitely why I’ve focused on minimalism in beauty," says Tracy O'Connor, one of the brand's founders (and former founder of Kate Somerville). "I simply don’t have time for more than a few steps, but when I use the Seiso products, I feel like I’m treating myself to a luxurious skincare experience."
"The Japanese have extremely well-documented science when it comes to skincare formulation, quality ingredients, and incredible technologies, like the moisture milk, which O'Connor raves about for its perfectly balanced, light moisturizer-serum texture that goes on like a dream, delivers the goods (their patented ceramides) and dramatically improves barrier function.
Meaning moisture, blessing, and fulfillment in Japanese, Uruoi is a line that combines an authentically Japanese minimalist philosophy with powerful, natural ingredients backed by science to bring uruoi to every person’s routine, skin, body, and life. Rather than doing a one-time skin treatment or using active ingredients to temporarily regenerate skin cells, the brand believes in maintaining a consistent yet simple regimen to keep the skin healthy and glowing. "Our line is a very simple three-step skincare brand: cleanse, tone, moisturize," says Jamie Jung of Denka, the brand's parent company. "We don’t push a customer to use all of the products in the lineup since our skin is unique—we recommend for customers to choose two to three products depending on their skin’s need."
We're big fans of the U-Series collection, where each product is thoughtfully curated and numbered according to the order you're supposed to use it. Their U5, a skin lotion (i.e. toner) has been the bestseller in Japan for 30 years whereas U5, their moisture milk, is the best-selling item in their line-up in the U.S. "It's interesting to notice this difference, which we think comes from how skincare is looked differently for each culture," says Jung. "For customers in Japan, toner is a must step, but in the U.S. market, moisturizers are more commonly used than toner or essences."
Meet the brand that holds the title of being the number one beauty device line in Japan with over 10 million units sold: ReFa. Meticulously designed to replicate the techniques used by pro estheticians, ReFa's beauty rollers promise to visibly firm, de-puff, and refine facial and bodily contours, all while maintaining intricate Japanese craftsmanship. "As a Japanese brand, ReFa adheres to a heritage of design that is minimalist in the sense of being modern, chic, and simple while remaining highly functional and effective," notes director Rie Iimura. "We strive to offer these minimalist designs globally so that the world may benefit from their balance of form and function."
The brand seeks to blend high-tech beauty devices with results-oriented skincare to help visibly enhance your inner and outer beauty simultaneously. Our favorite piece? The Carat Ray Face, which features platinum-coated rollers and solar-powered micro-current to help visibly contour your facial features—sans makeup.
Dry-skinned folks, listen up. H2O+ is a moisture-driven brand with a 30-year legacy that relaunched in 2019 with two skincare collections featuring hydration at their core: Hydration Sensitive and Hydration Oasis (fancy). Each collection features a four-step regimen with clean ingredients and a synergistic goal of achieving a heightened sensorial experience, or Gokan Ni Hibiku, which means an echoing of five senses. "We took the concept of a basic Japanese four-step skincare routine (double cleanse and double moisture) and developed a technology that will do the two-step cleansing in one."
And get this, their futuristic, creative approach to water technology includes building core ingredients inspired by—wait for it—amniotic fluid. Yep, you read that right. Their proprietary hydro-amino infusion was inspired by the life-giving properties of amniotic fluid, helping to optimize hydration levels and promote healthy-looking skin. "In Japan, having optimal skin hydration is the primary solution to achieving soft, healthy-looking skin because it helps maintain a well-functioning skin barrier and a youthful looking complexion," says Gomi.
MyKirei by Kao
Sustainability and efficacy are at the core of MyKirei by Kao, a Japanese-inspired personal hygiene and wellness line. Their shampoo, conditioner, and hand wash products all feature an air bottle, which are 100% recyclable and uses up to 50% less plastic than traditional bottles. "MyKirei’s view of sustainability is more holistic and encompassing than just plastic," notes Marissa Vallillo, director of marketing. "We reduce plastic to reduce waste in the world, but we also prioritize society as a main tenet of our positioning." Whether it be adding ribbing to their pumps to help those with compromised vision differentiate among their products, or their universal packaging that lets you get out every last drop, the brand is built on the credence that caring for yourself, your society, and the world around you makes life more beautiful.
Their formulas feature authentic, centuries-old Japanese ingredients for their cleansing, beautifying properties. "The shampoo and conditioner both feature Japanese Tsubaki flower (which is known to be rich in oleic acid, proteins, and glycerides), along with rice water (which is vitamin-rich and moisturizing)," says Vallillo. "The hand wash features vitamin C-rich yuzu extract and soothing rice water, known for centuries as the secret to bright, smooth and supple skin."
The real start of RE:ERTH goes back 20 years when a farmer from the Kyushu region of Japan sought the help of the then-head of agriculture at Kindai University. The goal? To identify if there was anything useful in the actual leaves of the plant we now call Japanese white turmeric. "The Japanese White Turmeric was grown locally for its beautiful flowers and for its roots (to be used in tea by the farmers), but the leaves were always just discarded," says founder Shinji Yamasaki. "As it turns out, the leaves did in fact contain interesting compounds, especially for skincare and for restoring its health." Fun fact: This plant is so exclusive that it—along with Japanese spring turmeric—only grows on RE:ERTH's farms in the Kyushu region.
Common skincare goals like even skin tone, brightness and glow-factor, and increased suppleness and firmness are to be expected of the products in the line. Best part? You don't need to layer on a slew of formulations to see results. "We focus on minimizing the routine as a whole by providing products that give multiple results," notes Yamasaki. "We feel that if you use good, effective products, there shouldn’t be a need to use many.